Pandemic Aid, Biden Administration Agenda and Other National Policy Issues Addressed in Roundtable Discussions
The Real Estate Roundtable’s 2021 State of the Industry (SOI) meeting this week featured discussions with three incoming Senate Committee chairs who oversee banking, energy, housing, and tax legislation – along with other national leaders on a wide range of policy matters. The Roundtable’s policy advisory committees also met virtually to discuss these matters as well as the Biden Administration’s COVID response initiatives, the prospects for legislating in a 50-50 Senate, and homeland security concerns in the aftermath of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. (Watch all SOI videos on The Roundtable's YouTube Channel.)
- Roundtable Chair Debra Cafaro (Chairman and CEO, Ventas, Inc.) launched the SOI meeting on Jan. 26, acknowledging the health, economic and equality crises that have engulfed the nation over the past year. (video)
- Cafaro also emphasized how The Roundtable was one of the first industry groups to denounce the attack and suspend political support for any members of Congress not interested in seeking bipartisan solutions to the nation’s significant challenges. (Roundtable Weekly, January 15)
- Cafaro was joined by Roundtable Chair-Elect John F. Fish (Chairman & CEO, SUFFOLK) and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer (photo above) in announcing that the organization’s 2021 National Policy Agenda will soon address issues in the areas of tax, capital and credit, energy and climate, homeland security, infrastructure and housing.
Policy Issues & Featured Speakers
The SOI meeting attracted nearly 300 participants and included the following speakers:
- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – Incoming Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee – spoke about the national eviction moratorium and ensuring citizens have access to affordable housing (video). [Roundtable President and CEO testified before the Senate Banking Committee in Sept. 2020 about policy recommendations that could encourage a national recovery from the economic effects of the pandemic.]
- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), photo above – Incoming Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee – is one of the key centrist Senators who is expected to play a significant role in forging bipartisan legislation in the 117th Congress, as the Biden Administration moves swiftly on its pandemic aid plan and clean energy initiatives to boost job creation. (video)
- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) – Incoming Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee – will have a principal role on Capitol Hill on tax, trade, and spending. He welcomed fact-based reports showing the link between real estate, the pandemic and tax policy. (video)
- Dr. Scott Gottlieb – 23rd Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – spoke with Roundtable Chair Debra Cafaro on the emergence of vaccines, concerns about coronavirus variants, and the prospects for fuller re-opening of the economy.
- Penny Pritzker – 38th Secretary of Commerce (2013-2017), Founder and Chairman of PSP Partners and former Roundtable Board Member – provided her insight on leadership, international trade agreement, the climate crisis and racial inequity. (video)
- Steven Pearlstein – Business and Economics Columnist, The Washington Post – discussed the challenges ahead for bipartisan policymaking in a split Senate with The Roundtable’s Board of Directors, reflecting his recent column, “Five (somewhat) upbeat predictions for 2021.” (video)
Roundtable Policy Advisory Committees
The Roundtable's policy advisory committee meetings analyzed national issues impacting CRE in detail with the following high-level congressional and agency staff:
- Research and Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committees (RECPAC)
Rep. French Hill (R-AR) provided his insights on the 117th Congress from his perspective as a member of the House Financial Services Committee. Additionally, D. Michael Van Konynenburg (Eastdil Secured), Brian Kingston (Brookfield) and Michael Bilerman (Citi) provided their perspectives on the market cycle. (video)
- Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC)
Tax legislative priorities affecting CRE were a focus of a discussion moderated by Russ Sullivan (Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck) with Tiffany Smith, chief tax counsel for Senate Finance Committee Democrats and Andrew Grossman, chief tax counsel for House Ways and Means Committee Democrats. (video)
- Homeland Security Task Force (HSTF) and Risk Management Working Group (RMWG)
This joint meeting was briefed on potential post-inauguration threats from a representative of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. Additionally, Brian Michael Jenkins, a senior adviser to the president of the RAND Corporation, addressed the attack on the U.S. Capitol and the implications for real estate.
- Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC), photo above
U.S. Energy Information Administration speakers updated SPAC on the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), the only federal data that takes stock of U.S. commercial real estate. Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) trends were also discussed, as well as the need for voluntary federal standards to help unify a patchwork of state and local laws addressing buildings and their carbon footprint. (video)
Next on The Roundtable's FY2021 meeting calendar is the Spring Meeting on April 20. This virtual meeting is restricted to Roundtable-level members only.
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Senate Weighs Timelines for COVID-19 Relief Bill and Impeachment Trial; President Biden Signs Climate Executive Order
Senate policymakers this week began to consider President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package proposal after Congressional leaders agreed to delay opening arguments in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump until Feb. 9. (Reuters, Jan. 25 and PBS, Jan. 26)
- As an alternative to a trial, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) yesterday said he will introduce a resolution to censure the former president, citing the 14th amendment to bar Trump from holding future office. At least 10 Senate Republicans would have to vote for censure to move the resolution forward, even though the GOP has shown little support for conviction in the impeachment proceeding. (The Hill and The Washington Post, Jan. 28)
- With the impeachment trial date set, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he is aiming to pass a pandemic aid package by mid-March, when unemployment benefits will expire. (Forbes, Jan. 25, 2021 and Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 22, 2020)
- Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also said this week that if Republicans continue to reject President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal, a Democrat-only pandemic stimulus plan will move forward next week using budget reconciliation – a process that requires a simple majority vote in the Senate, thereby avoiding a filibuster. Vice President Kamala Harris could break a tie vote in the 50-50 Senate. (The Hill, Jan. 29)
- President Biden said Monday that he is open to negotiating a bipartisan approach to the next pandemic aid package with Congress, but stated “time is of the essence” and that “[t]he decision to use reconciliation will depend on how these negotiations go.” (Bloomberg and CNBC, Jan. 25)
- Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) – a centrist Republican who recently announced he will not seek reelection in 2022 due to partisan gridlock – said the use of reconciliation “would exacerbate the partisanship around here; it would make it more difficult to find common ground.” (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 26)
Presidential Executive Order on Climate
- In related policy news, President Biden issued an executive order on Wednesday to “tackl[e] the climate crisis at home and abroad.” (Axios, Jan. 28, New York Times, Jan. 27). The order aims for the U.S. to achieve a “net-zero emissions” economy by 2050.
- The climate order directs federal agencies to determine the U.S.’s carbon reduction target under the terms of the Paris climate agreement, and maximize opportunities to “create well-paying union jobs to build a modern and sustainable infrastructure.”
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Senate Advances Biden Cabinet Confirmations; Janet Yellen Confirmed as Treasury Secretary
Cabinet nominations for the Biden Administration are advancing in a closely divided Senate. On Jan. 25, former Fed Chair Janet Yellen was confirmed (84-15) by the full chamber as the first female U.S. Treasury Secretary after the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved her nomination last week. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 22)
- Members of the Finance Committee asked Dr. Yellen about the potential for tax increases under the new Administration. She responded in writing, “President Biden has proposed an array of reforms that would ensure the wealthiest taxpayers and corporations pay their fair share. These and other proposals will be further developed as part of the budget process.”
- In addition to the former Fed Chair’s testimony, her responses to written questions for the record are available here.
- Secretary Yellen is expected to play an important role in negotiations with Congress over COVID-19 relief, support President Biden’s efforts to encourage clean energy jobs, and work closely with current Fed Chair Jerome Powell on bolstering an economic recovery. (The Hill, Jan. 29 and NBC News, Jan. 25)
- Yellen also said she will establish a new “hub” at Treasury that will examine financial system risks arising from climate change and on related tax policy incentives. (Politico, Jan. 25)
- Other Biden cabinet nominations of interest to commercial real estate include:
Secretary of Transportation -- Pete Buttigieg, photo above
The former mayor of South Bend, IN was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on Jan. 27 and the full Senate has scheduled a vote on his nomination on Feb. 2. Buttigieg made urban development and economic revitalization cornerstones of his mayoral service. (Reuters, Jan. 27)
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-- Michael Regan
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a confirmation hearing on Biden’s nomination of Regan to be EPA administrator on Feb. 3. (Bloomberg Law, July 27) He currently leads North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, and if confirmed will have a major role on shaping the Biden Administration’s reponse to the climate crisis.
Secretary of Energy – Jennifer Granholm
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm had her confirmation hearing on Jan. 27 before the Senate Energy Committee. As governor, she supported policies for electric cars, energy efficiency, and renewable energy deployment.
Secretary of Commerce – Gina Raimondo
The Senate Commerce Committee held a Jan. 26 confirmation hearing to consider Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo for Commerce Secretary. Gov. Raimondo spoke at The Roundtable’s 2020 State of the Industry Meeting about her efforts to build more affordable housing, along with her support for Opportunity Zone tax incentives. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 31, 2020)
Secretary of Homeland Security – Alejandro Mayorkas
The Senate will vote on the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to lead DHS on Feb. 1, after he was approved by the chamber’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Jan. 26. A former Obama Administration official, if confirmed he will help shape the Biden Administration’s policies on matters such as immigration and cybersecurity. (The Hill, Jan. 28)
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Marcia Fudge
The Senate Banking Committee on Jan. 28 held a hearing on the nomination of Marcia Fudge to lead HUD. Rep. Fudge (D-OH) is former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. During her nomination hearing, she told the committee that $25 billion in rental assistance approved by Congress at year-end was “not enough.” (NPR, Jan. 28)
A full listing of other cabinet nominees and senior roles in the Biden Administration is provided by The Wall Street Journal.
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